China just issued official translations for 3,500 Chinese phrases to keep clueless foreigners from “mispronouncing” certain words, notably the terminologies used in Chinese cuisine.
Earlier in 2017, the Chinese government deemed “Chinglish” (odd Chinese translations into English) to be damaging to “the country’s image.” According to state-run People’s Daily (via South China Morning Post), its use poses challenges for the “development of a multilingual society” and causes social issues.
The newly released official translations, which covers a total of 13 topic areas, also include sections that, for some, may be viewed to have political motivations, reports Quartz.
Observers have pointed out that some words and phrases, particularly under “accommodation and catering” suggest that China appears to be claiming ownership of some Asian food items from other countries.
“Tofu,” for instance, is a term quite familiar to westerners, due to the popularity of the Japanese tōfu. However, the Chinese government deemed it to be referred to as doufu, which is the Mandarin pronunciation of the word.
So, despite tofu sounding much clearer for English speakers in China, Chinese authorities prefer visitors start practicing saying doufu.
In some instances, translations seem to label food to indicate it comes from China. “Sichuan pepper” is the recommended term for hua jiao, despite the word having a simpler more direct translation in “flower pepper.”
In general, the list can actually be seen as a helpful guide to aid visitors in daily conversations as pointed out by University of Pennsylvania Chinese language and literature professor Victor Mair.
“Overall, I think they have done a decent job in coming up with acceptable English equivalents for hundreds of terms that foreign visitors to China are likely to encounter,” Mair wrote.
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